The Royal British Legion: whose side is it on?

Very much a rhetorical question!

Nationally we all know the answer, and we are grateful for all that the Legion does pan UK, the hands-on part that most of us witness, understand and acclaim.

Indeed tomorrow [8th November 2015] the UK's Remembrance Sunday, the centre piece in Whitehall, the Cenotaph, which eternally bears the inscription "THE GLORIOUS DEAD", is an unequivocal statement meaning the dead of all who perished in whatever war, from whatever country notwithstanding colour, race or religion, whilst fighting the evil forces of the world, whether they be the regular armed forces of a given country or group of countries [Axis Powers in WW2 and Central Powers in WW1] or terrorist organisations much too many to mention. Implicit in that Remembrance, we remember all combatants who survived wars but who suffered subsequently because of the wars, and all combatants who fought and did their duty. They all, the dead and the survivors fought and made humbling sacrifices in the name of goodness, expressed as an international norm as opposed to any religious teaching or understanding which are not necessarily the same thing? There are many nouns which are the  opposite of goodness and I will choose wickedness, for by and large many of OUR enemies have displayed that trait often doing down their undoubted fighting ability, rendering themselves ignoble in the eyes of a great and uncountable phalanx of decent human beings. There is no place for our enemies on our cenotaphs, at our parades of Remembrance, in our prayers for OUR dead and sufferers, although fortunately because we are essentially a 'good', well meaning society, cognisant of the hapless civilians and the innocent of those countries who started and prosecuted such evil acts of war against OUR hapless innocent civilians, we remember them in our prayers, manifest in churches, or places of worship for other faith's, led by our clerics and not by our military, the establishment and certainly NOT by the Royal British Legion.

Last night my wife [who is the Chairman of our local British Legion Women's Section] and I attended our annual town's Remembrance concert which is acclaimed by many [at least locally] to be second only to the Remembrance concert in London's Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen. It was as always a wonderful and overtly professional affair in our packed-out purpose-built large concert hall, featuring amongst others, the volunteer Royal Air Force Band [an orchestra/brass band made up of civilian accomplished musicians to assist and to take the pressure off the Royal Air Force Band proper] and the RAF Wives Choir, from the local near-by RAF Station.

As part of the occasion the local Royal British Legion always publishes a state-of-the-art glossy coloured programme, and part of what was written therein, is the root cause of this page.

Please remember that it is a prerequisite that you have understood my acknowledgement stated above, that nationally, I am not criticising the Royal British Legion, for in this respect, it is worthy of infinite praise and gratitude for what they do, if necessary, for all who have served their country, which in full, includes their families. To my uncertain knowledge, I have never heard or seen the RBL include enemy civilians in their literature, or mention wars/battles/skirmishes/peace-keeping duties/etc individually, unless they have mentioned them all by name leaving none out, ergo their acceptance and acquiescence of "OUR GLORIOUS DEAD" this, notwithstanding from which war or battle.

As I turned the pages of the programme, imagine my surprise at reading a long list of wars [however defined, if troops are committed and any one of them is killed or injured, then it is a war] to see so many 'wars' missed off the list, which I considered to be an injustice to those who had been put in harms way, but when I saw the words DRESDEN and HIROSHIMA alongside that of COVENTRY, I baulked, and immediately wondered why all the bombed British cities/towns especially LONDON were not mentioned, choosing to ignore the flattening of White-Russia and a few millions of square miles of Europe proper. Was it I wondered, that this German city and this Japanese city stood out because they were singled out for punishment, and quickly answered my own question asking wasn't that the fate of London inter alia, singled out by a crazed despot, willingly carried out by his lap-dog Goering? As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki [by the way, many more people were killed in Tokyo by aerial bombing and fire-storms than were killed in Nagasaki by a nuclear explosion], isn't it a proven fact that taking these two cities out saved countless thousands of lives subsequently, because it brought the Japanese to their knees, leading to a stand-down of troops rather than a build-up of troops, so, perverse or not, it was a blessing for the Allies, and in truth they fought a long and cruel war not of their design and deserved a victory irrespective of how it was finally won! Coventry, was fairly and properly mentioned not just because of the destruction of its iconic cathedral, but because it had the highest death rate from bombing in the United Kingdom, whereas London should have been given a mention in recognition of the materiel damage sustained and the longest continuous bombing of fifty seven nights non stop?

The insensitive wording in the programme slightly soured the evening for me personally, spoiling what otherwise was an excellent evening out. Under no circumstances should those two foreign cities [or countries] have been included.  We were remembering the good and their sacrifices and not the bad and their just deserts. After all, the Germans and the Japanese do not even commemorate WW2 as we do {no doubt had they won the war they would have celebrated it} for jolly good reasons, and the chances we have for them remembering the many civilian deaths of defenceless British people who were put to the sword, is negligible. Even adopting the act of forgiveness which I readily subscribe to, forgiveness is really not a good bed fellow for Remembrance. Yes, we can forgive, but foremost in our minds, especially on this occasion, is our duty and need to REMEMBER!

Now the battles/wars which are a part of the same printed section containing the named cities above.

Surprisingly, if any individual battle/war had to be mentioned, one would have included those close to the hearts of the audience, with few remembering WW1 or even WW2 events, but virtually all [they were of that age group] remembering all the wars since Korea [1950-53] onwards. Of course many in the audience were wearing medals associated with those small but 'modern' wars. Mentioning Northern Ireland is always a difficult issue. Three quite separate organisations were involved within two geographical locations, and these were [A] The British Armed Forces - [B] The Ulster Defence Regiment/Royal Ulster Constabulary - [C] Civilians: geographically, Northern Ireland and England. The crimes of these Fenian/Irish Republican Army members were so horrific and much too many to list here - equally all deaths caused by them whether of A,B or C, in Northern Ireland or in England cannot be shown separately. For that reason may I direct you to this page which tells the full story https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Provisional_Irish_Republican_Army_actions_(1990%E2%80%9399). That apart, there were occasions where death came to several men simultaneously which appalled large sections of the UK population if not the world, one of which is worthy of stand-alone mention. Let's us never forget that the Irish terrorists were/are every bit as bad as any al-Qaeda, Taliban or IS terrorist and equally as evil even though they claim to be Christian of the Roman Catholic faith.  The worst has to be in London in two of its lovely huge green open spaces, namely Hyde Park and Regents Park a day no innocent person taking leisure would ever want to witness. Not only was the area saturated in blood from huge dying horses, shot by the UK authorities to put them out of their misery caused by their horrific wounds, and from the soldiers riding them, but many by-standers enjoying the London air were badly injured too, adding their oozing blood to the carnage. In two separate events, the IRA murdered in cold blood four soldiers and several army horses with a massive nail-bomb attached to a waiting car on their route to central London, and an hour later in the other mentioned park, a further seven soldiers were murdered in cold blood.

To my understanding, only the vile IRA attacked the English mainland twenty or so times, being number two to the German bombing of England, making them a bitterly despised bunch of thugs. Their atrocities in no particular order of event, were:-

Aldershot Army Barracks - 6 died -  5 women cleaners and 1 army padre
M62 coach bomb - killed 12 soldiers/and or family members
Houses of Parliament bombing - 11 injured
Guildford bombing - 4 soldiers killed and 1 civilian
Birmingham bombing -  21 civilians killed
London Hilton Hotel bombed - 2 killed 63 injured
Famous WW2 Conservative MP Airey Neave assassinated as he left the Houses of Parliament car park by car bomb
Harrods Store bombing - 3 London policemen killed and 3 civilians injured
Brighton Grand  Hotel bombing - 5 killed and many severely wounded - some prominent people living in my town and using our local hospital for their ageing treatment. Husband still active in the House of Lords whilst his wife is totally incapacitated in her electric wheel chair, a front-line victim of the IRA atrocity.
Deal Barracks bombing - 11 Royal Marine bandsmen killed
London Stock Exchange bombed - as was the home of Edward Heath. No casualties
Victoria Station -  litter bin bomb - killing 1 and injuring many. After this all litter bins withdrawn from all of London's transportation hubs.
IRA bomb in St Albans centre - blew up killing the two IRA planters
London City Baltic Exchange bombing - 3 killed 91 injured
Warrington bomb - killed 2 children and injured 56 people - country is shocked!
London City's Bishopsgate bombing - 1 killed and 30 injured
London Docklands bombing - 2 killed
Manchester City Centre bombing - injured over 200 citizens, destroying the city centre.
BBC Televison Centre and Ealing bombing - TV Centre much damage - Ealing several wounded.

Compound these crimes with those far greater crimes they perpetrated in Ireland, chief of which were the unbelievable depraved bombing of the crowd attending the Enniskillen Remembrance Day Parade; the murder of Lord Mountbatten and his family, and the slaughter at Warren Point on the same day. Many died [29] and hundreds were injured in the Omagh bombing which confirmed that the IRA were indeed sub-humans!       

 Some many moons ago I published this list of wars and its casualties in terms of the dead. I produce this in full here, followed by the page from the RBL Programme in question. If for no other reason than general interest, it is a lesson to all that if you are going to list 'wars' instead of using a generic such as "OUR GLORIOUS DEAD", "WW1 & 2" etc, then please list them all so as not to cause offence even if only one man lost his life as was the case in Libya. 

The first table [1] shows UK Armed Forces Deaths by medal earning theatre for the period 1945 until the 1st September 2013.

In this period 7136 souls perished in all theatres, which I will show in death rate order.

Since World War II, 7,136 UK Armed Forces personnel have died as a result of or during conflict, where conflict has been defined as a medal earning theatre, see Table 1 below. These deaths include those who died as a result of natural causes and accidents as well those who died as a result of hostile action.

THESE ARE OFFICAL BRITISH MOD STATISTICAL DATA FIGURES AND AS SUCH, ARE THE NUMBERS RECORDED IN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS. See also the asterisk at the foot of the page*

No Medal Theatre Medal Date Range Number of Fatalities
1 Malaya GSM 16 June 1948 - 31 July 1960 1443
2 Northern Ireland 3 GSM 14 August 1969 - 31 July 2007 1441
3 Korea 1 [UN] UN 27 June 1950 - 27 July 1954 1130
4 Palestine GSM 3 September 1945 - 30 June 1948    754
5 Afghanistan 4 OSM 11 September 2001 - to date    444
6 Canal Zone GSM 16 October 1951 - 19 October 1954    405
7 Cyprus NGSM 1 April  1955 - 18 April 1959     358
8 South Atlantic [Falklands]   2 April 1982 - 12 July 1982     237
9 Iraq 4   20 January 2003 - 22 May 2011     178
10 South Arabia GSM 1 August 1964 - 30 November 1967     160
11 Borneo GSM 24 December 1962 - 11 August 1966     140
12 Kenya AGSM 21 October 1952 - 17 November 1956       94
13 Balkans 4&5   1 July 1992 - to Present Day       72
14 Arabian Peninsular GSM 1 January 1957 - 30 June 1960       60
15 Yangtze NGSM 20 April 1949 - 31 July 1949       45
16 Gulf 1 GSM 2 August 1990 - 7 March 1991       45
17 Malaya Peninsular GSM 17 August 1964 - 11 August 1966       40
18 Dhofar GSM 1 October 1969 - 3 September 1976       25
19 Near East [Suez] NGSM 31 October 1956 - 22 December 1956       24
20 Radfan GSM 25 April 1964 - 31 July 1964       13
21 Brunei GSM 8 December 1962 - 23 December 1962        7
22 Rhodesia   1 December 1979 - 20 Mar 1980        5
23 Air Ops Iraq   16 July 1991 - 30 April 2003        5
24 Sierra Leone OSM 5 May 2000 - 31 July 2002        5
25 Congo ONUC 10 July 1960 - 30 June 64        2
26 Cyprus 2 UNIFCYP 27 Mar 1964 - to Present        2
27 Cambodia UNAMIC/UNTAC 1 October 1991 - 30 September 1993        1
28 Libya   9 March 2011 - 31 October 2011       1

Notes:

1.    Includes: Korea Medal 2 July 1950 - 27 July 1953 and Korea medal (UN) 27 June 1950 – 27 July 1954.

2.    As at 31 December 2012.

3.    Amended from previous publications due to Defence Statistics (Health) validation exercise on all Northern Ireland deaths.

4.    As at 1 September 2013.

5.    Includes: the Former Yugoslavia (NATO FRY) 1 July 1992-31 December 2002; Sarajevo Airlift (UN) 3 July 1992 – 12 January 1996; Georgia (UNOMIG) 23 August 1993 to present; Kosovo (NATO) 13 October 1998 – 31 December 2002; Kosovo (UNMIK) 10 June 1999 to present; Macedonia (NATO) 1 June 2001 – 31 December 2002 and Balkans (NATO) 1 January 2003 to present.  To identify which deaths occurred on specific operations relating to activities in the Balkans, individual Service records would need to be examined, as such MOD presents the information under the overarching category ‘Balkans’.

6.    The medals are awarded as:

GSM – General Service Medal

NGSM – Naval General Service Medal

AGSM – Army General Service Medal

OSM – Operational Service Medal

Medals beginning with the letters 'UN' are issued as United Nation Medals. This also applies to the ONCU Medal issued for service in the Congo.

The medals listed are not exhaustive and in some cases up to 1962 the NGSM was issued to naval and Marine personnel whilst the GSM/AGSM was issued to other combatants in the campaigns.  After 1962, the NGSM ceased to be issued and all received the GSM. This list shows examples. When no medal is shown, a special medal was struck for the campaign.

Next we look at severity in battle, and take a point from the first word war.

The loss of just one soldier, is lamented by all as the loss of a comrade, someone's son, husband, brother, grandson, father, and even if the loss had been just that, one person say in Libya [see table above last line] a memorial would be erected, the fallen honoured and a battle honour issued for the event. Grieving for one comrade is really the same as grieving for many comrades, indeed, for all fallen comrades and numbers [statistics] never play a part in the Remembrance Services.

The bloodiest battles ever, possibly, involved Britain and her many Allies [which included France] against the Germany Allied Forces alongside and on both banks of the French River, The Somme. In this short Battle, lasting from the 1st July to 18th November 1916, twenty weeks, over 1,000,000 men were either killed or badly wounded [and thus, out of the fray]. As everybody knows, on the first day of this battle the 1st July, Britain lost 60,000 dead and wounded and things augured badly for a total calamity. That did not come!  The British/French forces pushed the Germans back nearly seven miles but the battle was indecisive with the Germans holding onto their HQ base ten miles behind the front just three miles from where the Allied group called stumps.

Severity in battle really means how many men were lost [killed or out of action because of wounds] in a given time frame or a given campaign, and to be of any use, the losses on both sides should be known and should be exact! The German losses were well known, as were ours, but the magnitude of losses were much too great to use in the calculation, the outcome being only that "slaughter" could define the outcome. In a moment we shall be using similar calculations but because of our numbers [fatalities since 1945] as so small, gratefully, our calculation will be relatively easy to perform and to understand. In the case of the Somme, we could say that twenty weeks equals 140 days so the losses [or attrition rate of 1,000,000] would be expressed as average losses per day of combat which would equal 7143 per day, which if you consult Table 1 above, equates with the total losses of the UK Armed Forces from 1945 to September 2013 [68 years] which equaled 7136.  Counting from August 1945 [VJ Day] to the 3rd September 2013 gives approximately 68 years, giving an average loss of 105 men p.a., throughout the period. Historians are still battling over the the Battle of Jutland  trying to present a clear and outright winner, taking all kinds and types of losses into account, but they continue to fail to deliver a realistic verdict. WW1 land battles were equally notoriously difficult to referee!

So, returning to Table 1 above, and choosing say Afghanistan as an example calculation, 444 fatalities in 12 years = 144 months = just over 3 fatalities per month, even though that in itself is horrendous and as I said previously, lamentable. Many would say a waste of life, but that can only be stated to be such when the full outcome of the Afghanistan campaign is over and we see its fruits - or otherwise!

3 per month is the Afghanistan war British severity level. We don't of course know of the losses on the other side and  NATO losses, although known,  have not been factored in.

The table now begins to look like this and I will call it Table 2

No CAMPAIGN DURATION IN MONTHS FATALITIES SEVERITY SCORE - LOSSES PER MONTH OF CAMPAIGN
1 South Atlantic [Falklands] 3.75 237 63.20
2 Yangtze 1.25 45 36.00
3 Korea 49 1330 27.14
4 Palestine 36.5 754 20.65
5 Brunei 0.5 7 14.00
6 Near East [Suez] 2 24 12.00
7 Canal Zone 36 405 11.25
8 Malaya 157.5 1443    9.16
9 Cyprus 52.75 358  6.79
10 Gulf 1 7.75 45  5.81
11 South Arabia 43.25 160  3.70
12 Northern Ireland 456 1441    3.16
13 Afghanistan 144 444    3.08
14 Borneo 47.25 140  2.97
15 Kenya 49 94   1.92
16 Malaya Peninsular 24.0 40   1.67
17 Iraq 107.75 178  1.65
18 Arabian Peninsular 42 60  1.43
19 Rhodesia 4.0 5  1.25
20 Radfan 29.5 13  0.44
21 Balkans 252 72  0.29
22 Dhofar 90.25 25  0.28
23 Sierra Leone 29.25 5  0.17
24 Libya 7.0 1  0.14
25 Congo 51.5 2  0.04 
26 Cambodia 24 1   0.04
27 Air Operations Iraq 166.25 5  0.03
28 Cyprus 2 594.75 2  0.003

The longest campaign by far is Cyprus 2 at 594.75 months [ 49.5 years] and the shortest is Brunei at just two weeks duration.  The 1982 Falklands Campaign was the most vicious with the highest severity score whilst Cyprus 2 has the lowest at just 0.003 deaths per month. Despite all the hype, note how low the Iraq and Afghanistan severity scores are! My three campaigns score pretty well in the top half of the division!

Again, despite the chief killer in Afghanistan, viz, the IED [Improvised Explosive Device], the largest IED was detonated by the IRA at Warren Point Northern Ireland on the 28th August 1979 killing all eighteen soldiers in a reconnaissance patrol vehicle, and on the same day, the IRA also used a radio controlled IED to destroy the pleasure boat being used by Lord Mountbatten and his family plus friend, in a day of carnage with unparalleled infamy. It was known that the IRA were supported, sometimes trained and financed by terrorist organisations in third world countries, from places like Syria, Libya, Iraq and Iran. Their skill in making and deploying IED's came mainly from Islamic states, both Arab and Iranian, the same skills employed by al Qaeda and the Taliban in  Afghanistan today. America, during this same period, took sides with Saddam Hussein of Iraq in his fight against Iran's Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, supplying gas weapons [it was thought sarin, nerve and mustard]  and the technology to deliver them on the battlefield killing many hundreds of thousands of Iran's young men.  America certainly had blood on their hands and all in the name of securing oil rights, revenues and privileged dealing.   Now, today, September 2013, the USA wants to attack Syria for using these terrible weapons of war which the West had previously supplied to many unstable despotic rulers in the Middle East including to Syria, and the UK is believed to have brokered supply deals with President Assad, It is claimed that the weapons were not delivered, but that is academic for the intent was there in the first place, and supplier must in some way or other be implicit in their use.

Now whilst I have many statistics and data on injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan both on Service Personnel and on Official Civilians in the War Zone for the last twelve years to date 1st August 2013, I have very few on the injuries sustained associated with other Campaign's in Table 1 above. The ones I do have, are almost totally devoid of civilian data, and yet I remember vividly wives of Service Personnel being shot dead in the streets of Nicosia Cyprus [by cowardly Greek EOKA gun men] whilst out shopping and also other atrocities against Westerners stationed in foreign parts, there to support our Armed Forces. I believe there is little point in publishing Iraq and Afghanistan injuries in isolation, save to mention the worst year in twelve in that theatre [Afghanistan] whose figures were:-

 Year 2010

All injuries and all illnesses

Total Numbers : 1711
Battle Injuries : 562
Non-Battle Injuries : 523
Natural Causes : 623
Disease or Non-Battle Injuries : 2
Unknown : 1

Now the erring page from the RBL Concert programme.

 

I finish on listing all the wars not included on that programme list. By now you will been able to see that by trying to bring alive their programme by including a list of wars albeit incomplete, they have created a gaffe, at least for some people like me, where none of my visitations into war zones was mentioned namely Suez [Near East], Aden [Radfan], Cyprus [EOKA - mid 1950's], and Borneo.

They were:-

Malaya
Palestine
Canal Zone
Cyprus
Iraq
South Arabia
Borneo
Kenya
Arabian Peninsular
Yangtze
Malayan Peninsular
Dhofar
Near East
Radfan
Brunei
Rhodesia
Air Ops Iraq
Sierra Leone
Congo
Cyprus 2
Cambodia
Libya
and Vietnam for a select bunch of liaison officers attached to US forces for the duration.

I will, with much regret and melancholy chose to ignore that none of the famous naval battles are mentioned, but I put that down to sheer ignorance of the wars and Britain's part in them. I say to you all, remember well the thousands of British naval deaths incurred at:-

Battle of South Atlantic [the WW1 Battle of the Falklands].
The Battle of Dogger Bank.
The Battle of Jutland.
The Battle of Zeebrugge.
Battle of Coronel.
The Battles in which the famous RND [Royal Naval Division] Sailors deployed in the WW1 trenches, took part.
Battle of North West Cape.
Sink the Bismarck.
Battle of the River Plate.
Dardanelles Campaign.
Battle for and survival of Malta.
Battle of Crete.
Arctic Russian Convoys.
Battle of Taranto.
Battle of Cape Matapan.
Normandy Landings.
Dunkirk Rescue.
Entrapment and destruction of the Tirpitz.
The deployment of the fleet which cut off Rommel's supplies allowing Montgomery to defeat the German's in North Africa.
Captain Walker R.N., par excellence U-Boat killer, who led the Liverpool based anti submarine squadron in WW2 even unto total exhaustion and his untimely death. The Germans submariners feared him and his Group, and his country and service praised him on high.

...........dozens more, or are you simply not interested? Alternatively, did the army and the air force [running number two] really win both world wars?

Take care, be aware, be fair, be critical and be observant.

Yours aye.

Otherwise, a good show and keep it up. Hope to see you all in 2016.

As to the RBL, wonderful what you do and please keep it up. Might be an idea were you to send a round-robin to districts just to reiterate what the Legion's core business is, even though we all have empathy with those wretched souls who suffered so much under our guns and bombs. Had there been another way, I am sure that our leaders would have taken it, but your leaders did back-us-into-a-corner, so the problem they created had to be resolved with force, but force tempered with humanity.